Die Mütze – 2023

Oil on canvas. H122 x W90 cm

The camp orchestra’s cellist practices.

Personal survival in a Death Camp was imperative and the ability to play a musical instrument meant a reprieve from selection for the gas chamber. However, this came at a huge cost. The Concentration Camp (KZ or KL) orchestra was forced to perform for the transports – as they arrived from all over occupied Europe. The intention of providing live music was to keep the new arrivals calm and lull them into believing there was a semblance of normality in the camp, thereby facilitating SS selections for immediate murder in the gas chamber or, for prolonged torture via a tenuous life as slave labor.

Members of the orchestra were also inmates and suffered similar privation to others. The emaciated cellist (gender not clearly defined) symbolically intensifies the collective inmates’ suffering.

The feet are large, filthy and grotesque while the hands, being the conduit for the delicate sounds – are refined instruments in their own right.

The recognizable camp uniform hat (Die Mütze) hangs on a peg or nail on the wall of the barrack (Kaserne).

(My painting was inspired by the narrative of Anita Lasker-Wallfisch – the cellist and survivor of Auschwitz)

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